Spike Dykes posted a losing record in his second year
The Patron Saint of Texas Tech football, Spike Dykes, was the man who helped the program bridge the gap from the Southwest Conference to the Big 12. Over the course of his 13 seasons as head coach, he led his teams to six bowl games and when he retired, he was the program’s all-time leader in victories.
But his second season at the helm, 1988, was a regression from the upward trajectory his program showed at the start of his tenure. It was the only season in his first three that Tech failed to post a winning record as the Red Raiders struggled to a 5-6 record.
That year began terribly with a home loss to North Texas in front of under 25,000 fans and a road loss at Arizona. In fact, Tech would begin the year just 1-4 with the only win being over Baylor in week three.
But after road losses to Texas A&M and No. 20 Arkansas, Dykes’ team found its footing a bit. Rattling off four straight wins, the Red Raiders pulled their record to one game over .500 including wins over Texas and TCU, the later coming on the road.
Unfortunately, the Red Raiders would lose the final two games of the year, both to ranked teams. A home loss to No. 17 Houston proceeded a season-ending loss to No. 12 Oklahoma State. Remember, that game against OSU was not a conference game at the time. What’s even more strange is that it was played in Tokyo, Japan but was not a bowl game. Rather, it was the Coca-Cola Classic, a scheduled neutral-site contest.
Tech managed to put together a 4-3 conference record that season, good for 4th in the SWC. But given that it was the senior season of one of the best QBs in the Dykes era, 1988 had to be considered a disappointment.
Billy Joe Tolliver still sits 8th in program history with 6,756 passing yards. And in 1988, the four-year starter had his best season as a Red Raider with 2,869 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 11 picks.
What’s more, the 1988 offense featured James Gray, the program’s second-leading all-time rusher. That year, the junior accounted for 1,289 yards of total offense and 15 touchdowns (11 rushing).
But the defense failed that year’s team as Tech averaged 36.6 points allowed per game in its six losses. That’s a problem that has been all too common for Red Raider fans in the present day and one that is also a concern leading into Wells’ second year.